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  • Dear Santa

    by Mike Coffey

    In my house, we grew up with the mantra that anything worth doing was worth doing well. I realize that’s a tough philsophy to defend while reading my blog entries, but let’s file that under suspension of belief and talk about my usual topic, ND basketball.

    Word out of D.C. is the Board of Trustees reached a decision to green-light the long-awaited facilities upgrades for Notre Dame’s basketball programs. Obviously I consider this fantastic news, particularly because it does not come under duress but rather from a position that supporting those programs is the right thing to do. That, as I noted a few weeks ago, is the first step towards a strong program.

    Nothing is confirmed, of course, until the white smoke issues from the roof of the Joyce Center — preferably from a bulldozer doing its work — and the details and timeline are distributed for public consumption. In between now and then, it falls to us, the ND basketball fanbase, to talk about what we’d like to see in those details. Far be it from me to refrain from talking about what I’d like to see, so allow me to present my laundry list in order of dollars spent.

    New practice facilities. This is the part of the physical plant in which the players would spend the most time, and it’s the aspect most emphasized by other schools which have made upgrades to their facilities. It represents the best “bang for the buck” Notre Dame could realize.

    The generic term “practice facilities” can mean a lot of things. What I have in mind specifically is a quality practice court — enough room for at least two full-length courts with proper flooring, lighting, baskets, etc. — with high-tech player meeting areas and lounges (one for men, one for women). Upgrade and improvement to the weightlifting and training offices and areas would be included in this effort as well, ensuring that the players have the best machines available on which to work and the training staff has the room and equipment with which to do their jobs.

    The locker rooms were updated as part of an effort six years ago. I don’t believe they’d require too much revamping, but if the upgrades included a quality lounge area, some space in the current locker rooms could be reclaimed/reallocated.

    Better scoreboard. I realize ND basketball has gone many years with the four-corner scoreboards in the Joyce Center, but this is the 21st Century. Many other schools use higher-tech center-mounted scoreboards that can show the crowd a lot more than the time left and current score. Player point totals and foul totals are considered de rigueur these days, and it’s nice to have something on which to show past highlights — God knows this is a fanbase that needs education about its past.

    Yes, I just advocated a Jumbotron. I’ll wait for the sputtering to stop.

    Most schools that upgrade their stuff are installing such contraptions. Some very quality programs like North Carolina and Indiana have had them for a while. Having seen them in action in places like Milwaukee and the Allstate Arena, I don’t believe they detract from the experience. The opportunity to show people like Austin Carr and Kelly Tripucka in action to this generation of fans is one that should be taken.

    I realize this may seem odd because I oppose such an installation in Notre Dame Stadium. I feel that way because ND football was built on a strong tradition of simplicity, and I believe use of a Jumbotron goes against that tradition. I do not have the same feelings about ND basketball. Besides, if it means no more hamster ball races, damn the lightshow and full speed ahead.

    Floor replacement. When ND upgraded the playing surface a few seasons ago, they installed the new floor on top of the existing one, securing it with duct tape. Not good. The floor setup should be checked to make sure it is of the proper quality, and it should be secured in such a way that I don’t get the feeling I’m watching a game at my local rec center.

    Seat replacement. The observation areas should be all seatbacks (lose the bleachers) of a uniform dark color, preferably ND’s hue of Navy blue. I don’t care what Digger thinks, neon purple is not a school color. Uniform color gives the arena a cleaner look, dark colors wear better, and they don’t look as awful on TV in the unfortunate event they’re empty.

    Reallocation of seats. I’m probably making a simple concept sound complicated, but what I’m looking to do is get the often-no-show loge seat holders out of an area to which strong program supporters should have access. There has been talk of creating a “luxury box” setup, and this would go a long way towards fulfilling my goal. I don’t care if a luxury box that isn’t on TV stands empty. I do care if half-court seats remain unfilled with rabid Irish partisans.

    Concession improvements. The setup is pretty good as it is, and it’s not like there are a ton of lines. But I would like ND to be capable of offering more variety in the concession stands, and also give them better capability for making the food on site.

    Press row technology improvements. Seven years of covering the Irish has given me a pretty good idea of what I’d like to see changed in this area. Permanent two-row seating would make the experience more comfortable. More and better stat monitors would make it easier to track the goings-on during the game and for S.I.D. folks to push current info to the writers during the game (e.g. so-and-so just broke the record for consecutive dives into the stands). Wireless Internet access would allow writers to file their stories more quickly.

    A basketball “hall of fame” area. As I noted, ND basketball needs to reclaim its history, and the best solution is to put that history front and center where everyone can get a good whiff of it. The NCAA banners are a good thing, but I’m thinking more along the lines of a “ring of fame”, both for the men and the women, to remind the fans of the players who helped shape ND basketball tradition. Outright retirement of jersey numbers might not be feasible, but this would be a good alternative.

    Creation of a “student seating ring” around the court. Yes, I prioritized this one last, and my recent posts on the Pit should more than explain why. I would rather see the available resources applied to the areas listed above and any remaining resources dedicated to this effort.

    I would hope that there would be enough wherewithal for the project to allow everything on the list to be done, but if we’re cutting from the bottom, this is the first one to go.

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